Relationships between physicians and patients have to be a two-way street, but it’s not always something that’s talked about.
Dr. Sara Safarzadeh Amiri, dual board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics, recently presented “Foundations of a Great Physician-Patient Relationship” on an Odessa College Facebook Live broadcast.
The physician-patient relationship is important to the patient and the physician, she said. Seventy-nine percent of physicians consider patient relationships to be the most satisfying thing about their work, according to a 2014 Physicians Foundation survey.
As with any relationship, physician-patient relationships require both parties to be actively engaged and invested.
Amiri, who is with Odessa Regional Medical Center, said the keys to any healthy relationship are communication, respect and trust. This also holds true for the physician-patient relationship, she said.
The relationship is one of the main factors that influences adherence to treatment. Amiri said impaired relationships can lead to poor outcomes because the patient may feel unheard, disrespected or out of partnership with their physician.
It’s important to find a doctor you feel comfortable with and trust, she noted.
Amiri listed ways to maximize your appointment:
- Be prepared for your appointment.
- Prioritize health issues to discuss.
- Bring a companion/advocate to your appointment when necessary.
- Be honest with your physician.
- Be sure you understand your care plan.
- Communicate with your physician; use patient portal.
- Follow your care plan.
If a doctor seems to be paying attention to a computer screen instead of the patient, Amiri said the patient should ask to see the screen. Also, become involved to review their records and ask questions of the doctor and call for attention. If you have something sensitive to discuss, speak up and ask for your doctor’s full attention.
Asked if the pandemic has made doctor-patient relationships more difficult as far as patients having certain ideas and not believing their doctors as much as they used to, Amiri said she didn’t think that was necessarily so.
“… I think for me what this pandemic has shown, just like with any other areas that we look at, is that it’s brought into light these deficiencies that already existed in the system. So it’s just this major event that has occurred that has impacted our world, our country, our healthcare system and we’re finding all these difficulties. These difficulties already existed in the system where it’s just been magnified. … I don’t think it’s just COVID. It could have been anything else. It could have been any other kind of thing. …,” Amiri said.
She added that trust is a big factor in the doctor-patient relationship.
“Where does trust come from? You can’t just have trust if you don’t have a relationship. Then goes back to having that relationship and so I think that’s what it brings about is … do we have a relationship with our patients? What kind of a relationship does healthcare have with the community, with the patients that it’s supposed to serve and vice versa. I think that’s what it magnifies,” Amiri said.
She added that she is passionate about primary care. “… I was in primary care practice for seven years and recently I moved into a physician advisor role within the hospital here at Odessa Regional, but I am very much of a primary care physician advocate and patient advocate, and community work is very important to me,” she added.
That is one reason why the relationship aspect is important to her.
The physician advisor is a recent role aimed at advocating for physicians, patients and case management. It is meant to help move things along as smoothly as possible “for the benefit of the patient and the benefit of the … system as a whole,” Amiri said.
Amiri said you won’t last long if you don’t have passion for patient education. She noted that different physicians have different personalities. Some doctors are more outgoing and others not as much.
Amiri said that doesn’t mean they don’t care about the patient relationship and about your health care.
Their personality may perfectly match with a patient.
She advises prospective patients to ask themselves what they need from a doctor before choosing one because you may not like the one friends and family think is best for you.
“You have to pick a physician that matches your personality, that gives you a good vibe …,” Amiri said.
She added that she doesn’t think there’s a perfect physician, so you have to find one that satisfies what you’re looking for and what’s important to you.
For all patients, it’s important that they feel like the doctor listens to you and that you are heard.
Amiri said some patients want to know all the details of the diagnosis and treatment.
Other patients trust their physician’s judgment and want to be told what they should do and what medicine to take, for example.
It’s recommended that doctors give patients a summary of their visit telling them what medications are prescribed and any diagnostic workups that they need to get, for instance.
Having an advocate with you is important, she said.
Amiri noted that it’s important that patients answer medical questions honestly. Tell the doctor if a medicine didn’t work for you last time, or if you can’t check your blood sugar three times a day and ask for an alternative.
“I think a lot of times patients, and again it’s just based on the relationship it’s the relationship of power. … It appears that the physician is in a position of power and you’re not in a position of power, so you don’t want to disrespect them. You don’t want to not listen to them; you don’t want to argue with them; or you feel like you can’t, you know say things freely, but you have to in order for them to be able to help you, in order to build a relationship of trust. … They’re invested in your medical care, but then they also realize that this is a partnership. The physician understands that, so just because they tell you to do something, it doesn’t mean that you’re just going to do it, no questions asked. So feel free to ask that question, feel empowered to do that. And I think that’s important …,” Amiri said.